One of the many problems I came across while caring for my father with Alzheimer’s disease was that medical professionals would ask him questions and take his answers as if they were the gospel truth. Many times these were crucial questions about his medical history.
Sometimes this would happen after I had just explained to them that he was in the latter stages of the disease. The answers my dad was giving were so inaccurate, I was shocked to see them actually being written down.
To all medical professionals reading this: Please make sure you get some sort of verification regarding any essential questions answered by someone with a dementia-related disease. If the patient happens to be alone, please take a couple of extra minutes out of your demanding schedule and make sure someone has called a family member or the patient’s advocate for corroboration.
You would think this would be standard practice, but trust me, it is not.
Just seeing these patients sitting in front of you at the hospital should alert you to a very important fact: They have been taken out of their daily routine. And if you have cared for a loved one with dementia, you know that “routine” is the key to keeping anxiety and confusion levels down.
I understand that everything is generally fast paced in a health care setting. More often than not the reason for someone to be in a hospital in the first place is the need for acute care. However, patients with dementia require a more unambiguous type of care.
This is where the importance of a new hospital wristband progam is coming into play. With the new purple angel logo representing all types of dementias on the band, medical staff will know, without a doubt, the questions being answered by this dementia patient need verification. This knowledge could be life-saving.
You could have asked my father the same question twice within a 10-minute period, and you most likely would have received two completely different answers. Maybe more!
The training involved in the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Project I have initiated will be done by the Gulf Coast Alzheimer’s Association Chapter. This, and many more instructions on dementia care, will be presented to all hospital staff members during the pilot program, which is taking place at Brooksville Regional Hospital.
It’s important to note that this type of dementia care should be practiced by all medical professionals and first responders when dealing with dementia patients, not just in hospitals.Let’s make the extra effort to be sure all dementia patients remain safe. Verifying vital medical information is a huge step in the right direction.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver for his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors,” “While I Still Can” and “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness” can be found at www.commonsensecaregiving.com.